Monday, 27 July 2009

Watch SONA 2009 here

GMA in 9th and final SoNA
Will cite achievements, appeal for unity
Manila Bulletin

Facing a troubled economy and waning popularity, President Arroyo will attempt to put a positive glow on her years as president and promise to keep the nation strong and stable as it heads for an election year when she delivers today, Monday, her ninth and final State of the Nation Address (SoNA) at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.

The President is expected to highlight her achievements in keeping a strong economy, building modern infrastructure, and improving education and other social services in the last eight years during her 40-minute annual address before a joint session of Congress.

With less than 12 months in office, Mrs. Arroyo’s speech will also dwell on her legacy of a strong and resilient economy and endorse some plans, particularly the Philippine Education Highway, to the country’s next leader.

An initial draft of the SoNA showed the President will push for reforms to repair the country’s damaged political system while seeking support to ensure next year’s automated elections will be free, fair, and reflect the true will of the people.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde declined to confirm or deny if the President would tackle proposed amendments in the Constitution in this year’s annual address. He said the President will spotlight the economy and education in her final report to the nation. The big SoNA theme will be the economic gains of the Arroyo administration since 2001 and how it intends to build on these accomplishments in the face of the global financial crisis.

The draft SoNA indicated the President will present the stark reality that economic growth has slowed although the country remains better off than most other nations. Keeping the country from global recession will be hard but she will say she has never stepped back from any challenge.

On the eve of her SoNA on Sunday, the President obtained inputs on the progress and challenges of education in the country for her annual address during a meeting with education officials in Malacañang.

“Nothing is more sacred or more valuable to enhancing the dignity of every Filipino than a good education. No issue is more to us than education. Our children, the children of our nation are our most precious to us,” the President said in her brief remarks to the group.

“We must give them every opportunity to use their God-given talents to lift themselves up. Education is the ticket to better life,” she added.

Mrs. Arroyo said the country cannot have a high quality of life without a good economy, a central principle of her administration. "And the only way for our hard-working citizens to take advantage of a strong economy is through attaining a sound education," she said.

A task force led by Ateneo President Bienvenido Nebres has formulated the Philippine Education Highway, which presents a continuum from early childhood education to grade school to high school and to technical-vocational school or college to ensure a good job and good future for the Filipino youth.

The President is expected to ask next administration to carry on with the Day Care and Pre-School Curriculum for five-year-old children and allocate funds for the rest of early childhood care and development services.

While her government has revised the curriculum to increase math, science, and English, the President is expected to ask her successor to press on making English the medium of instruction starting from the third grade.

On infrastructure development, Remonde said the government invested heavily in building roads, bridges, airports, seaports, and other power, agricultural, and social infrastructure.
“Today, 98 percent of all barangays have electricity. Today, 98 percent of the archipelago has cellular phone signal. Eight out of 10 Filipinos have a cellular phone. There are 70 million cellular phone users out of a population of 92 million,” he said.

Included in the President’s SoNA will be a list of laws she wants Congress to pass on the resumption of its sessions. Among the priority measures are higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco products and other revenue bills, more infrastructure projects, and closing the budget deficit. She is also expected to ask Congress to approve the Marine Code to provide single accountability for the country’s marine interests, to extend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, to fund the the deployment of more policemen on the streets to increase public safety.

The President will also devote part of her SoNA to plans on improving health care, particularly reducing maternal and infant mortality, as well as stepping up efforts for energy security and environmental protection.

Towards the end of her speech, the President will appeal for national unity, asking both friends and foes to join hands to see the nation through the tough economic times.

Remonde disclosed that among the special guests of the President in the SoNA assembly will be Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao. The President is expected to cite the victories of Pacquiao and say that they should inspire all Filipinos to have the same discipline, tenacity, and pride to triumph against all odds.

For Monday’s SoNA, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has directed its troops deployed for the event to observe maximum tolerance. Ibrado reminded the troops that the Philippine Naional Police is the agency that has the primary responsibility for the SoNA and the rallies.

The troops they will only be employed if there is a need for them. AFP Chief of Staff, Gen. Victor Ibrado, appealed to those who will holding mass actions to “just conduct their rallies peacefully as they say they would to avoid problems.”

The Police Regional Office (PRO) in the Cordillera has dispatched a 300-man police delegation to Metro Manila as its contribution to the augmentation force of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to ensure the prevalence of law and order when President Gloria MacapagalArroyo delivers her SoNA. Chief Supt. Orlando L. Pestano, PRO-COR regional director, said the region’s elite civil disturbance unit will help provide security measures within the Batasan complex and other strategic places in Metro Manila.

Some 1,000 members of the transport group Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) will join Monday’s anti-government protest actions to denounce the alleged failure of the Arroyo government to resolve problems of the public transportation industry such as “kotong” and “colorum” vehicles.

Piston Secretary General George San Mateo stressed that their participation in the protest actions is not meant as a transport strike since only their members barred from plying their routes because of the color-coding scheme will be joining the demonstrations.

San Mateo said drivers continue to fall prey to extortionist traffic law enforcers contrary to the claim of President Arroyo in last year’s SONA that the problem has been eradicated.

Department of Education National Capital Region (DepEd NCR) Director Teresita Domalanta announced Saturday the suspension of all classes in NCR. “In view of the expected heavy traffic on Monday resulting from the coinciding major events of the SoNA and the grand celebration of the INC anniversary, all public and private pre-school, elementary and high school in NCR will be suspended on Monday, July 27,” Domalanata said.

Classes on the tertiary level are not suspended. However, Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) announced Saturday that all branches of the university all over the country are suspended on Monday. (With reports by JC Bello Ruiz, Dexter A. See, Angelo G. Garcia, and Elena L. Aben)

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